Not the most snappy title, but as work fills such a large part of our time it’s quite important to have a work/life balance, something I frequently struggle with. I find it hard to keep organised in work and to take in instructions at times. I also struggle if I am interrupted mid way through tasks as I can forget where I am. I am not sure if this relates to my autism diagnosis, or if it’s a deficit that’s simply part of me, either way it’s caused me all sorts of problems in the past, and over the years I have built up methods to keep me on track.
Outlook for organisation
When I started my new job 6 months ago the first thing I did was set up all my regular weekly or daily tasks on my Outlook email calendar. This means I can check off when I have done things. Without these reminders I would regularly forget my tasks. I make sure all meetings are in my Outlook calendar and I also use it to add reminders to myself for things to do on other days. For example, if I upload an image to our website I can’t publish it that day as it generally takes 24 hours to appear – I will simply add it to my calendar for 9am the following morning so I can check off that reminder the following day. I treat my email like my to do list, as soon as I have dealt with something it gets deleted, if I am waiting for information I will amend the subject line or body of the email to tell myself what I am waiting for. I use Outlook notes to store password reminders and useful information I may need to refer back eg IT help desk numbers etc.
To do lists
At the start of each day I will write myself a to do list, so I can tick off when I have done things. This helps me stay on track, particularly if I am interrupted. Everything goes on the to do list. I also have a long term to do list for tasks which don’t need to be done that day, but need picking up at a later date. I use a desk top digital sticky note for this and remove each item once completed. I really like to complete all my tasks by the end of the day and put a lot of pressure on myself to complete this. I used to work flexi time in my previous employment which meant I could work until I had completed what I was in the middle of. My current job doesn’t have flexi time, which can leave me feeling on edge at the end of the day when I have to stop something I’m in the middle of.
When I find myself in this situation I try to write down what I need to do the following day, to get it out my head so I am not worrying about it into the evening. It then makes it easier to pick up the following day.
I’m not sure this really counts as a strategy as such, possibly more of a quirk of me, but I love to save time and make big tasks feel easier. For example, every Monday I take minutes for a meeting, the Friday beforehand I will set up my minutes template with items pulled over from the agenda. This means when it comes to typing up the minutes on a Monday it feels like less of an overwhelming task. I do something similar with our Newsletter, setting up the format of the next one as soon as one is circulated so I can add to it as I go.
I like to have some information visually that I need to access quickly – for example, useful telephone numbers and contact details, so I have these displayed in front of my desk. I also have a desk calendar, as I frequently forget the date or need to count on a period of time to book something in, which I find hard to count in my head. I use my desk calendar to remind myself of after work things and holiday dates, which also go into my personal diary which I carry with me at all times.
I find it hard to take instructions verbally at times and find a notebook really helps with this. I can ask someone to repeat something, and jot it down so I understand what I need to do. I use it to take phone messages also, and always cross them out once they have been emailed on – that way if I get interrupted after taking a message I can see it’s still there to be sent on when I come back to my notebook.
I can be overwhelmed by noise and people at times, most the time my ears feel hyper sensitive which means I can easily be distracted when I am trying to focus on a task. I have started to use my headphones more regularly when I have something specific to focus on. Somehow music doesn’t distract me, but helps me to focus. I listen to it every day on my way to work as well, which can help with my mood on arrival. I have started to listen to music when I feel particularly stressed or upset by something in work too and have found it to be really helpful in stopping me from dissolving into tears over something I have misunderstood. I tend to have my lunch at a time when less people are having there’s, it’s not because I want to be antisocial, but it is a moment to wind down, and I can feel my whole body relax into the silence.
I’d be interested to hear other people’s tips for coping with difficult emotions, sensory issues and how to manage in the work environment when you struggle socially. Please leave your comments below 🙂